The Entertainment Awards Catch-22

They never had any integrity, but before the Great Stupid, they could at least pretend. That was good enough to serve the real purpose of such awards and their televised ceremonies. Now, since they can’t even pretend, the awards have no purpose, and increasingly, no audiences.

The Grammys were the latest televised awards show debacle. That show’s rating hit an all-time low, following similar results for the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Academy Awards (with this year’s new low on the horizon), and nobody ever watched the Tonys anyway. This result was preordained as soon as the organizations sponsoring and running the various awards competitions, enthusiastically applauded by the woke news media, decided to make honoring minority , especially black, performers a new mission.

By doing so, the organizations were admitting that the awards were never objective assessments of quality in the first place. Of course they weren’t, but the contrary illusion was crucial to the commercial mission of such awards: to promote the product and its creators. Movies that win Oscars used to get a big bump in ticket sales. Songs that win Grammys are downloaded more. The individual artists gain prestige that helps their careers. All of this is dependent on consumers buying the myth that the awards, any of them, are reliable measures of quality, and especially superior quality.

Has racial bias played a big role in determining award-winners? Sure it has. How could it not? Most of the voters are going to belong to the majority demographic, which is white. They will tend to like entertainment by made by people and featuring people who “look like them.” So do consumers of entertainment. This is neither sinister not racist: indeed, the “I want to see/hear/care about people like me” is a virtual mantra among minority critics who deplore the whiteward tilt of most U.S. entertainment. In order to adjust for this bias in award shows, voters have to be trained, after being shamed, into adopting different biases, and for this to satisfy critics, activists and race-baiters,the results have to be evident and celebrated. Thus every award show in the past year has featured “firsts” focused on race among its nominations and winners.This may address one problem, but the problem it creates is much greater.

Trumpeting a new bias, even a positive or remedial one, devalues the awards, and devaluing the awards reduces their promotional value. Reducing their promotional values hurts the prestige of the awards, their value even to the most legitimate award-winners, and their ability to generate consumers and audiences. And profits.

The sophisticated consumers of movies, theatrical shows, TV, songs and music always have known the awards were bunk, determined by a dizzying mess of biases, just as they always knew that critics were deaf, dumb and blind, evaluating these art forms by criteria alien to any normal human being. But awards have never been aimed at sophisticated consumers. They were and are designed for suckers—the gullible and ignorant—and this group makes up the majority of any mass market. Various thumbs, or fists, have always been on the scales determining awards, but as long as the hoi polloi believed that they were fair competitions determined by superior talent and quality, they worked.

The first misguided step toward crippling the promotional value of the awards was when the entertainment industry decided to make partisan politics a blazing factor in the awards, and make it obvious too, through artists suddenly using the awards shows as platforms for their half-baked passions and juvenile pronouncements. In the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, for example, the film with the biggest box office was almost always, if not a lock for the Oscar, a major contender. Once that changed, even an idiot could figure out that what was being called “the best” by the awards awarders had little to do with what audiences—you know, those people a film is supposedly made to please?—think is “the best.” In an earlier era, “Jurassic Park,” not “Schindler’s List,” would have been the 1993 winner of the “Best Film” Oscar. (It was a better and more influential movie, too.)

The second, and I believe decisive, step in pushing the awards to irrelevance is ostentatious affirmative action. That is what is going on when voters are told, pressured, or otherwise influenced to favor minority artists in order to address “systemic racism.” Addressing systemic racism—and beyond question, all of the entertainment genres have been guilty of that—still isn’t what awards are supposed to signify. Reversing the bias may make some awards fairer, or at least unfair in a different way, but its still a loud admission that quality isn’t what the awards are about.

It they aren’t about objective assessments of quality, why should anyone care about them—including those who receive the honors?

In order to save entertainment awards from real or perceived racial bias, the entertainment industries are in the process of destroying the one feature that justified their existence: make naive and easily deceived consumers believe that the awards meant the art was worth paying for.

8 thoughts on “The Entertainment Awards Catch-22

  1. The Awards shows, particularly the Oscars, have been fighting declining viewership for decades now. Even before the internet and streaming services provided even more viewing options, the shows were cutting out snoozefests like the Academy President and the huge song and dance numbers in order to keep the running time down. Even having the orchestra play the winners off-stage hasn’t made a huge difference and may have been counterproductive as it’s the winners the audience wants to see and hear.

    Allowing the presenters and the winners to spend all night antagonizing half the audience as if they are attending a company party where the conversation is a bunch of inside jokes that keep everyone else at bay certainly hasn’t helped. Essentially deciding that the nominations must be a virtual Affirmative Action checklist only turns off audience members – most of whom are white – who haven’t seen any of the nominated films…nor have any interest in doing so. If audiences don’t like being lectured to by the Hollywood elite for free, they certainly aren’t going to drop money on films that will do the same. If they even have the ability to watch them.

    You are likely to be correct in the Oscars having all-time low ratings this year. Several of the nominees are exclusive to certain streaming services, so, if you don’t subscribe to everything, it’s difficult to see them all. My husband makes it a hobby to watch every Best Picture nominee each year so that he can better enjoy the ceremony, even if he knows he won’t like the film. This year, however, with nominees coming from streaming services, there is at least one he won’t be able to see because we don’t subscribe to the service, to say nothing of local theaters being hindered in showing even the most popular films of the year because of the pandemic.

    And, since Hollywood is really all about the money, are bottomed-out ratings really worth it? What is the likelihood that, even with forced minority representation in the nominees, more interest will pick up in the show itself? Are African, Latina and Asian-Americans going to turn on the Oscars in droves now that they are going to see themselves on television? I have a feeling that, regardless of this weighted nominee list, the demographics for the show aren’t going to change by much.

    • Is it really all about the money? Most people in Hollywood have plenty of that. What they’re really concerned about is making visions a reality and keeping their status. It’s all about who gets invited to the right cocktail parties, etc., both so they can maintain their place in the pecking order and hopefully get the ear of whoever will aid them in making their grandiose dreams a fact. As long as they still bang out the by-the-numbers action blockbusters (to appeal to young men and office-bound gastropods), sappy rom-coms (to bring in the young women and have them drag their dates along), and Disney princess pics (to get the young girls to wheedle and whine their parents into taking them), they will have all the money they need. It’s just a matter of who gets to beat us ordinary plebians over the head with his/her vision this year.

      I haven’t been a major movie-goer for quite a while now. The last movie I remember going to was “Midway” Veterans’ Day weekend 2019. I was going to go to the last Star Wars movie in January once my dad went back to Hilton Head, where he usually spends the winter, but he never made it due to stubborn side effects from an antibiotic that was worse than the infection it was prescribed for and then: pandemic. As I get older I really have less and less patience for 2-hour films that are 1/3 crap and filler anyway and no patience for Very Important Messages, all of which I’ve heard too many times.

      • In terms of advertising dollars, yes. They made adjustments to the awards shows because of declining ratings which affect the amount of money coming in from ads. They want to keep showing them, but cannot reconcile their desire to jump on a soapbox with the fact that fewer and fewer people are watching the Oscars each year and, by extension, not watching the commercials.

  2. I have never watched an awards show and never will. The art that I choose to consume is what gives me satisfaction and not what others say I should like. If the movie evokes an emotion in me it has achieved the desired effect. If the song lifts my spirits or energizes me, that too has satisfied me. I may not be an expert in the arts but I know what I like. When I start consuming art because of the group think, I believe it will be necessary to just give up such art entirely

  3. For my dime, awards shows have never been relevant, except (perhaps) to “inspire” people to seek out the movies/theater/stage that win awards — and then, usually to assess whether I agree at all with the selection. What is relevant is audience reaction and to a lesser (for my second dime) extent, critical reaction as critics often exhibit more bias than the audience at large. I do not watch awards shows and have not since they became a mouthpiece for rambling mouths, often speaking about something they have bothered neither to study nor understand. I do, however, read the lists of Academy awards and Tony awards to determine if I might have missed something that could be worth seeing. I also read the lists of local Helen Hayes awards even though, by the time the awards are made, it is too late to see the awarded show. Awards are often made in a way that is beyond my understanding, but they have occasionally brought to my attention something I might otherwise have missed. Soldier on, Jack. Agree with you sometimes, disagree others, but always intellectually provocative.

  4. Some of us may remember when the Miss America pageant was a big deal. I had to check the interwebs to see if it even still existed. Besides the effects of self-immolating woke-ism on entertainment awards shows, the ability of any individual to find reviews and considerably more information online largely negates the need for, and therefore interest in, such things. Entertainment and information are no longer largely controlled at the whims of three television networks, a handful of major studios, and monthly magazines.

    It’s no longer the 1950’s; to borrow a term from a product of the industry, these shows are walking dead.

    • I agree, I would argue that the future of pop culture is not in award shows but fandoms. I was listening a podcast by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, where he talked about attending a test-screening for a live action Dilbert show (which never got off the ground). The test audience members had the means to signal every moment they liked, and the person in charge told Adams, “Averages don’t tell you anything, we’re not looking for how many people give positive signals, we’re looking for at least some people to give CONSISTENT positive signals on everything they’re seeing.”

      I think that’s true now more than ever. The best critics are grassroots individuals who are good at describing why they like what they do and don’t like what they don’t. The internet has given such people more of a voice, since they don’t have to go through major publications to reach an audience. Plus if a work gets enough of a cult following, the subsequent fan-art, fanfiction, parodies, memes, etc. amounts to word-of-mouth on steroids.

  5. I’ve never been impressed with the Grammys. As a young person, not long after wax cylinders, watching Stevie Wonder win year after year. I thought, “Who are these people deciding awards?” I knew he wasn’t the best those many years. But, he was safe and popular.

    I like Brittany Howard and think “Stay High” is superior to many of the porn sound tracks. I do question the choice. Considering the video blurred out things such as the new public library in her town. It perpetuates a distorted image of the south.

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